CINCINNATI -- When your team is competitive, but still at the bottom of the division, upgrades are certainly warranted. On Friday, when asked if he felt whether the Reds should make additions ahead of the July 31 Trade Deadline, manager David Bell seemed to simultaneously feel both in favor and opposed to the idea.
“We’re always going to look to improve,” Bell replied. “Right now, it’s clear we’re not where we need to be in every area of the game. We’re working hard to get better. It’s very simple for me. I love the team we have. I love the guys we have. But we all know we have to get better. That’s our focus every day.”
The Reds could use additional bullpen help and are also looking for some offensive improvement, as they entered Friday's contest 8 1/2 games out of first place in the National League Central at 43-51.
But Bell also showed support for the players that he already has.
“I don’t want anyone else in our clubhouse. We love the team that we have,” he said. “We have the talent. We have the ability. We just have to get better and that’s my responsibility. That’s great. That’s exactly where I want to be. We have to get better, we know that. We’re doing what it’s going to take. It’s going to show up. We can’t wait for that to happen.”
One thing that the Reds have failed to do lately is break off a winning streak and sustain the success. Their biggest streak of victories -- six games -- happened June 16-21, before the team hit a four-game losing streak.
“We have to get where we’re on a roll at some point,” Bell said. “It’s just talk until it happens. The only thing we can do is find ways to get better. We’re certainly not satisfied with where we are.”
Puig’s arm dangerous for runners
When it comes to running on Reds right fielder Yasiel Puig, opposing teams have remained conservative this season out of respect for his strong right throwing arm. That’s why Cardinals third-base coach Ron Warner didn’t send Matt Wieters home on Jairo Munoz’s fly out to right field in the sixth inning with a 3-3 score Thursday night. Puig fired a perfect strike to the plate, sending Wieters back to third base. At first base, Kolten Wong tagged and started toward second base on the throw home, but Reds catcher Juan Graterol nearly threw him out back at first after receiving Puig’s throw. Joey Votto just missed tagging Wong out in time.
“That was textbook -- because he’s still looking to go, and he was getting far enough down the line,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “He was going, and he was going to read the throw, and once he reads the throw, it was textbook. Paul [DeJong, the runner at second base] did a good job of being aware. Kolten got out there a little bit, but he can afford to, based on where Votto is.”
Had the Reds gotten the double play in that situation, they would have avoided the very next play -- a first-pitch grand slam by Tommy Edman off Robert Stephenson that put the game away.
“If we get that out, we’d have won that game,” Puig said Friday. “The next pitch was a grand slam. That made me sad. I threw good, and Graterol threw to Joey, and Joey did the best he can at first base to tag him out.”
In the ninth inning, on Edmundo Sosa’s bloop single to right field, Puig got the ball on one hop and threw out Harrison Bader trying to go from first to third. Sosa was thrown out trying to advance to second base by Eugenio Suarez to end the inning. Statcast recorded Puig’s 165-foot throw at 95.5 mph, the third hardest for any Red this year. Puig had a 96.8 mph throw on June 11, which is tops on the team.
“You just don’t see that often in today’s game -- or any time in the game, really -- to have that great of an arm that it gets in the head of the opposing runners and third-base coaches,” Bell said. “You have to factor that in. Not only does he have a strong arm, but when he wants to, he’s extremely accurate with it. You can’t just count on an errant throw.”
Puig is ranked fifth among Major League right fielders with five assists this season. He enjoys throwing out runners and takes pride in it.
“That’s when I am excited,” Puig said. “Sometimes, the other teams don’t want to run on me and I don’t get assists for myself. I see other guys have more assists than me and people are talking like, ‘Oh, that’s a right fielder that’s better than Puig.’ That’s not right. I can’t throw out nobody because nobody is running on me. I need to do better when I throw to home plate, because I need to throw to the cutoff man more to not let the runners advance another base. I need to keep working on that to help my team.”